New York Library or City Hall Filter
August 18, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Defenders: Season 1 Episode 2 features Jessica Jones looking through a New York Library Card Catalog / or City Hall Records. Is this still done? Are these things not in some sort of Lexis/Nexis catalog online or something of the sort? Do people still have a use for card catalogs? What records departments (anywhere) still use this sort of system?

Given that this is the intersection of Libraries, New York City, Fanfare, and overthinking a plate of beans - this is the place to ask!
posted by Nanukthedog to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
NYPL has two separate computer card catalogs. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they kept some physical ones as historical artifacts, but they probably wouldn't be in general use.

City records, though...the number of places where older records are still available only on paper is huge. Most real estate records are now online, and modern permits, but I'd be surprised to learn you could look up, e.g., who had the permit to do scaffolding work on x building in 1963 without resorting to some paper.
posted by praemunire at 8:48 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

At least one of the reading rooms at the Library of Congress still has an active set of card catalogs in use. Not that new cards are being created, but the old cards are still the only way for some of the older material to be accessed.

(Long story--some of the cards were digitized in a project many years ago, but they were sloppily done, some whole drawers were skipped, etc., and the data ended up in a scanty homemade database with few features. So the card catalogs can't be decommissioned, because some of the cards are still crucial to finding certain materials.)
posted by theatro at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but all of the cemeteries I've visited still have paper records. I went to visit some family graves recently and depending on the era, some grave locations were recorded in a book, others in cards in metal files. It took 5-10 minutes to pull locations for 4 graves.

I'm sure there are services that digitize cemetery records, but I imagine it's pretty expensive, all things considered.
posted by kittydelsol at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

At least one fancy specialty research library in my city has a physical card catalog for part of its collections, because they claim not to have the funds to hire a replacement for the European languages cataloger who left before cataloging everything in that particular collection into the online system, and they refuse to allow fully language-qualified and cataloging-experienced volunteers or employees to assist in finishing the job without they have the talisman of a library science degree. thus, there are no plans to ever finish it. I am sure they are not the only institution to have this interesting set of priorities.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:45 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The card catalog at the main NYPL building (42nd St.) was copied to a set of bound volumes years ago, and the cards were discarded. As far as I know, the volumes are still available to the public and contain some information that's not in the online catalog. (There's actually only a single online catalog these days - circulating and research materials can be searched together.)
posted by Awkward Philip at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's more information about the NYPL catalog volumes: It's called the Dictionary Catalog and there are 800 volumes.
posted by Awkward Philip at 5:46 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

We use a card system, a libor system, and a weird ledger system, all cross referenced, at my court for our very old cases. I think it's neat as hell but some of our younger employees are just overwhelmed by the entire thing.
posted by checkitnice at 4:31 AM on August 19, 2017

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